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Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Gift

I had only known my mother-in-law, Becky, for a short time. It was obvious from first blush that she was a warm and “easy to talk to” lady. Actually she never stops talking but that’s a good thing when you’re the new guy and terribly uncomfortable.

It was the first Christmas at their house for me. Christmas … and it was 75 degrees in Jacksonville, Fla. I had been working in the cold rain all month in North Carolina. Becky had called one day and asked how I was doing. I said that I was wet, cold and busy. “I really don’t have time to talk right now, Becky”. I don’t think I was rude but as can be my way, especially when working, I was, no doubt a bit brusque.

Fast forward to the following Christmas morning as wrapping paper flies everywhere. Each person eagerly explores his or her Santa Claus booty.

“OOOhhh. …. AHHH … Just what I wanted! Thanks Grand Ma … Big Daddy.” Over to the side, I was busy extracting a black raincoat with a red flannel lining from a tissue filled box that had been carefully wrapped in red and green. I seem to remember holding it up with both hands and having to consciously close my gaping mouth as I gazed up at it in the glaring light.

For some reason I was somewhat confused. The only thing I knew to do to show my appreciation, other than mumble, “Thank you”, was to try it on. The moment I donned that flannel-lined jacket over cargo shorts and tank top, I started sweating like a pig. I was red faced and a little perplexed that this petite and yes, somewhat aggravatingly eccentric lady had gone searching for a warm raincoat in the tropical Jacksonville heat.

I could just see her padding across the sweltering black asphalt of the mall parking lot. The fact that in order to accomplish her goal she had considered me, even though we barely knew each other, working wet and cold was what stuck somewhere inside me.

I wore that raincoat out. It still hangs in the closet at work. It’s all torn up so I don’t wear it anymore. I’ve had it in my hands with other stuff headed for the trash can but I never could bring myself to throw it out.

Every now and then, on a cold rainy day … I’ll pull open the closet door … stand there … and just look at it for a moment or two.

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